Urban Cinefile
"Good acting I think is like being a magician."  -Glenn Close
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In the village of Little Wallop (popn 57) the dour and dithering vicar, Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson) is suffering from a flatlined libido and a family on the edge ... his wife Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas) feels neglected, frustrated, edgy and irritable, and is half heartedly dallying with her golf coach (Patrick Swazye). Meanwhile hormone-rich daughter Holly (Tamsin Egerton) is shagging every boy within reach and her younger brother Petey (Toby Parkes) is being bullied at school. Enter Grace (Maggie Smith) a sweet old housekeeper who seems to have a (final) solution for the problems - large and small - of this troubled family.

Review by Louise Keller:
It doesn't matter that there aren't many laughs in Keeping Mum, but it does matter that we are made to expect them. Comedy sets up certain expectations. Especially if Rowan Atkinson is cast as 'a bumbling vicar'. Keeping Mum is a wry black comedy that is anything but the broad comedy we have come to expect from Atkinson. It's as though the filmmakers are hedging their bets and lack the confidence in our ability to enjoy the film on its own terms. This is a character-based film set in a small community in the English countryside. The performances by Kristen Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith are wonderful.

There's an incessantly barking dog, an elderly neighbour having a crisis of faith and a vicar whose frustrated wife observes he may have found God but lost his sense of humour. All she longs for is a good night's sleep and a husband with an active libido. Problems like her sex-obsessed teenage daughter and insecure young son just don't go away. Little does she expect Grace, the new housekeeper (a Mary Poppins of sorts) to solve all her problems......

The film is charming in many ways - from its atmospheric Cornwall setting to the ambiance created by its characters. It's mostly kept alive by Scott Thomas' very real Gloria, who finds life has turned like sour milk, and her lecherous golf instructor Lance (Swayze) seems to the splash of colour needed to brighten her palette. There's a lovely scene when Gloria and would-be lover Lance speak in double entendres about their impending romantic rendez-vous, while Grace listens with wide eyes.

We are instantly involved in the everyday family chaos: daughter Holly's (Tamsin Egerton) indiscretions and son Petey's (Tobey Parkes) inability to stand up for himself at school. Before the new housekeeper arrives, Walter suggests her name (Grace) is a sign from above. There are a few chuckles and I do like the no-nonsense way that Grace addresses all the family's problems - from the barking dog to Walter's humourless sermons.

Keeping Mum might have been an absolutely delight, but director Niall Johnson, who also co-wrote the script, fails to inject the energy it needs (and deserves). Enjoyable on some levels, we are left wanting.

DVD offers behind the scenes feature, deleted scenes, audio commentary, alternate beginning and outtakes.

Published May 4, 2006

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

(UK, 2005)

CAST: Rowan Atkinson, Kristin-Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Patrick Swayze, Emilia Fox, Liz Smith, Tamsin Egerton, James Booth, Toby Parkes, Jack Ryan

PRODUCER: Julia Palau, Matthew Payne

DIRECTOR: Niall Johnson

SCRIPT: Niall Johnson (original by Richard Russo)


EDITOR: Jonathan Sales, Robin Sales

MUSIC: Dickon Hinchliffe


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 26, 2006


SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes,deleted scenes, audio commentary, outtakes, alternative beginning, itraiiler, tv spots

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: May 3, 2006

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020